•It’s an amphibious exercise —Army
Twenty four hours after elderstateman, Chief Edwin Clark, held a stakeholders’ meeting with leaders of Niger Delta Coastal States to initiate peace, leaders of Ijaws of Gbaramatu kingdom in Warri South West Local Government Area of Delta State have cried out to the international community to halt alleged Federal Government’s plan to bombard their communities.
Leaders and chiefs from the kingdom led by Chief Godspower Gbenekama, Chief Nelson Ogelegbanwei and Chief Vero Tangbuwei among others made the allegation at a press conference on Saturday, in Warri.
Chief Gbenekama, who is the spokesperson for the Gbaramatu Traditional Council, said drones and other military hardwares had already been deployed to the area in readiness for the bombardment any moment from Saturday.
According to him, except the Federal Government is urgently prevailed upon, the bombardment would commence in earnest in the disguise of smoking out members of the dreaded Niger Delta Avengers (NDA) who have brought the oil-economy of the country to its knees via destruction of oil and gas facilities in the Niger Delta region.
He said personnel from the Nigerian Navy, Nigerian Army and the Nigeria Airforce had already begun the patrol of waterways and creeks in the kingdom, adding that “they are prepared to deal with us.”
Gbenekama added that as of Friday, afraid residents of the various communities in the kingdom who have alternatives have begun to relocate to safer climes to avoid being caught in the planned bombardment.
“The fear of the coming bombardment is driving our locals out of the communities.
For those who have alternative abodes, they are moving out in droves.
Of course some don’t have anywhere to go and they are left to fate,” the Benemowei of Gbaramatu kingdom enthused.
He identified the stalled take-off of the Nigerian Maritime University as one of the reasons militants have refused to sheathe their swords, calling on the Federal Government to make a definite pronouncement on the matter as it is doing the menace of Fulani herdsmen
He described the FG as the number one “lawless organ” which does not obey court orders as it has refused to appeal or pay the N99.97 billion fine by a competent court of law for the bombardment carried out against the kingdom in the heat of militancy in 2009.
The leaders of the kingdom urged the FG to show seriousness and sincerity by constituting a committee that will midwife the actual dialogue process with aggrieved militants, elders and leaders of the region in order to restore peace and normalcy in the region.
They denied knowledge of identities of members of the NDA and other groups of militants, accusing the FG of planning the bombardment to create a sense of insecurity so as to finally seal the fate of the maritime University.
Meanwhile, leaders and chiefs from Gbaramatu kingdom have expressed their readiness to remain in Nigeria, saying they were against and plan of secession.
“We elders do not support secession. We want the maritime University back. The FG should make a pronouncement on it,” the leaders which included Chief Julius Torfawa, Mr Godwin Olufemi and Mr William Tortor noted.
They said people of the kingdom and the entire Niger Delta were ready for dialogue hence the Clark’s stakeholders’ meeting, calling on the Avengers to halt all hostilities and plans of secession.
“Avengers should give peace a chance. They should ask stop the destruction.
The FG too should be initiate a dialogue and shelve the plan to bombard our communities.
Bombardment will not solve the problem. We need to jaw jaw and not war war.
Dialogue is the only thing that can solve the problem. They should not use the avengers as a guise to bombard our communities,” they pleaded.
The elders also called on the Nigeria military to release the 10 arrested pupils from Oporoza as well as return stolen cultural artifacts and deities in May to the kingdom as one of the factors that’ll engender peace.
They urged the political class and the international oil companies (IOCs) to prevail on the FG to halt the planned bombardment as their installations, facilities and business concerns would be endangered and affected.
However, the General Officer Commanding (G.O.C.) 2nd Division of the Nigerian Army, Ibadan, Major-General Kasimu Abdulkarim, had said that the Nigeria Army would be having an amphibious training exercise within Delta State.
He disclosed this when he paid a courtesy call on Gov. Ifeanyi Okowa on Thursday in Asaba.
The GOC was on tour of states the 2 Division of Nigerian Army covers which includes Delta, Edo, Oyo, Ekiti and parts of Niger State ruling out the fears of any form of bombardment.
“Nigerian Army is to have a training exercise which is amphibious in nature within the state.
“We are here to provide adequate security and make the environment safe for all,” Abdulkareem noted.
But Chief Gbenekama of Gbaramatu, when corrected that it was a mere two-week military exercise that was about to take off in the two-week, insisted that the training was a disguise and part of the plans
to bombard the kingdom.
When contacted, the police public relations officer, Delta Police Command, Celestina Kalu, a superintendent of police, said her men had not been detailed for such an exercise neither was she aware of any planned bombardment.
A source from the Nigerian Navy in Warri could not also confirm the allegation, saying he was not aware of such planned bombardment in the creeks of the state by the army.